O2 Wireless 2008: Day Two
Morrissey pulls the curtain down in Hyde Park
Daniel Fahey on 11 July 2008
After a long day at work, the last thing you want to hear is a MC shouting: "Come on, where's Dave and John?
Get up here; come on. Dave and John everybody - they're going to sing Bon Jovi's 'It’s My Life'"
That sort of karaoke crap may be acceptable at a leaving do, but at a festival it is nothing short of offensive. Welcome to
O2 Wireless - the festival equivalent of Piccadilly Circus.
For four days London's regal Hyde Park opens it’s gates to allow a barrage of advertising firms to play 'festival' by masking their wares behind a troupe of bands. Each day is sold almost exclusively by its headliner (tonight's is Morrissey) as other 'associated' acts help to close the deal.
There are five stages to choose from, but your first stop should be taking cover from the cider karaoke bar. The nearby Sandisk Tent, one of the only stages that isn't blighted by the drifting sounds of other tents, is sweaty and alive with Manchester group The Courteeners. Drawing a large crowd the quartet paint their Libertines-by-numbers sound to a sweaty legion of fans, who, like the Barat and Doherty faithful, are happy to sing all the words back again. "Apparently we don't have any fans in London," quips frontman Liam Frey with faux-Panto abandon, before gushing thanks for being given to chance on the same bill as Morrissey and Dirty Pretty Things. The catchy 'Acrylic' is the staple garage rock that's plagued British bands for the past few years, while the galloping drums of highlight 'What Took You So Long' do their best to mask the cringy "I'm like Morrissey with some strings," lyric.
Sadly on the main stage Guillemots aren't having as much luck with most post-work city dwellers more interested in enjoying the sunshine. Mixing tracks from their mad-cap and Mercury nominated album 'Through The Windowpane' and the eighties-infused effort ‘Red', the band never really get the attention they deserve. 'Trains To Brazil' isn't the bumbling beauty it has been in the past and 'Get Over It' still sounds like it should be on an Argos ad, but for all the effort the four-piece put in something more than a nod of acknowledgement would be appreciated.
On the Tuborg Stage New York Dolls, the band of whom, Morrissey was President of their fan club during his teenage years, are one of the afternoons successes. Still with their trademark big hair and tight trousers the influential punk group play to a full tent, with many more trying to get in from outside. Lead singer David Johansen may not be able to move like he once did, but he's still able to hold a tune as well as any other reformed band around at the moment. They even find time to cover Janis Joplin's 'Take Another Piece Of My Heart'.
The Sandisk Tent seems to have emptied since The Courteeners and The National certainly aren't filling it. Their gloomy lyrics are licked by their morose sound but the band are nothing short of boring. Instead Beck is on the main stage dressed like in a black cowboy hat complete with black shades, waistcoat and trousers. His hybrid of blues and country rock has never been overtly popular in the UK but big hit 'Summer Girl' is delightful in the sun, sounding like something Mungo Jerry would've put out if they were still around. While 'Loser', the one everyone knows, is also a crowd-favourite even though he cuts the final verse.
Tonight's headliner Morrissey and his band take to the stage adorned in Playboy t-shirts and what follows feels like a bit of Playboy performance: all front and no real substance. Kicking off with 'Last Of The International Playboys', the ex-Smiths frontman goes through his usual motions of flicking the microphone's lead and arching his neck like the sun is blinding him. Running through into Smiths' track 'Ask', it suddenly feels like it’s going to be a classic evening, especially when he crashes into 'First Of The Gang To Die'. New track 'That’s How People Grow Up' shows a return to form that made 'Suedehead' and 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' so accessible as an airing of 'Irish Blood English Heart' rouses the excitable crowd.
But then the set backs into a bit of a cul-de-sac as album tracks and B-sides come to the fore: 'Sister, I'm A Poet', 'The Loop' and even 'Vicar In A Tutu' from 'The Queen Is Dead' make the set feel a little like it's dragging. 'The World Is A Full Of Crashing Bores' is a little more heartfelt as the singer spits out the: "It's just more lock jawed pop stars/ thicker than pig shit," lyrics. Speaking of which, Morrissey uses a break between songs to 'congratulate' Kylie on her recent MBE for services to music. The singer sounds sarcastic, but as many a journalist have learned, it's best to take it in its ambiguity.
'Billy Budd', 'Life Is A Pigsty' and 'Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed' all highlight the lack of versatility in Boz Boorer's guitar work, a sound that is shadowed greatly by Johnny Marr's epical moment 'How Soon Is Now' during the encore. It's also the singer’s final chance for one last dig: "Today is America's Independence Day," he begins to a chorus of boos, "but the day America will celebrate independence will be in January, when they finally say goodbye to Bush," which receives the loudest cheer of the evening.
Ending on Smiths' number 'What She Said' which merges into 'Rubber Ring', Morrissey leaves the crowd on a reflective high, but it feels a little empty – much like the festival itself.